Monday, November 25, 2013

Chimes at Midnight: a Curious Portrait of Shakespeare's Henry IV

 above: Henry the Fourth (private collection)
Orson Welles' Chimes at Midnight is now available in full length on youtube.  I can't recall the details of its ownership problems, but the film has been largely unavailable.  Even some of my friends who are Welles devotees have not seen it.  I had to buy the Dvd out of Brazil.  And, as a bonus, seeing the film helps to explain some of the high strangeness of My Own Private Idaho.

The Famous Victories of Henry V, the source play by anonymous,  was apparently picked apart by Shakespeare and divided into the Henriad trilogy we know today.  To create his Chimes at Midnight, Welles combined the two Prince Hal plays but also threw in lines from Richard II, Henry V, and The Merry Wives of Windsor.  Almost every scene Welles selects hails from the source play.

Bonus link: the scholar Ramon Jimenez wrote a fascinating article on the relationship between the source play and the Hal trilogy.

Bonus bonus link:  Friggin' gigantic resolution photograph of the NPG copy of the above portrait on wikicommons.  (To my knowledge it's unknown which portrait is the original one.)  Go there to explore the royal nose hairs, etc.  And here is the link to the NPG webpage on their portrait. 

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